All the Ravens had to do was win this game…at home versus the Bengals, and they would have been the #5 seed in the AFC playoffs. Inexplicably…or very splicably they lost. I want to say, “Good…because the Ravens didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs anyway!” But then I thought – but the Bills and Titans didn’t necessarily grab the reigns either!
What did anyone expect? The Ravens tried to sneak into the playoffs on the back of an ultra-easy schedule…they didn’t have a win over a playoff team all season. Their most high-quality win was beating Detroit in Week 13. The Ravens went 0-5 versus playoff teams. Justice, in some senses, was served with a Ravens’ ouster.
The Ravens have been muddling around for 2+ years now…not so bad that they fire the coach and blow up the roster and rebuild, but not good enough to really matter. To me, you have to blow this thing up to try to reboot…but it looks like the Ravens are going to stay with ‘comfortable’ and are content to be a near .500 team again in 2018 (and beyond). Sorry, Ravens fans. Looking at all the empty seats for Ravens home games the 2nd-half of the season…the fans have started to speak on their interest level in this snoozefest of a team.
The Bengals started out this season 0-3, but they then went 7-6 to finish out…a good enough finish to get Marvin Lewis rehired. The Bengals are very much like the Ravens…not bad enough to blow up and not good enough to matter…but there’s a flicker of hope with Cincy on the horizon, one I don’t see with Baltimore. The Steelers have to look at the state of the rest of the AFC North and sleep like babies at night.
Both Cincy and Baltimore will fight for .500 again next year. Cincy with the more interesting pieces…a better QB. A potential stud RB. An ace #1 WR. Both have young defensive talent. With the right something, either of these two teams could sneak into a wild card next year…but they’re so predictably managed they won’t have the upside to get to a Super Bowl.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Joe Mixon (18-96-0, 1-1-0/1) might be the best value of the entire 2018 dynasty-fantasy offseason. He’s not cheap or discarded, but for the price he trades at for where he might be headed – there’s value in many cases.
The Mixon story is – people either hated him/wrote him off for his off-field stuff back in college or they thought of him as the sleeper-best RB in the 2017 NFL Draft class…debatably ahead of Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, etc. People mouthed ‘best in class’ but then usually ranked him #3-5 among RBs in the class because of the off-field scaring them away -- I was in that camp, to a degree. I thought he was a very good prospect with baggage and a little too much ‘sleeper stud’ hype.
Mixon wasn’t drafted in the 1st-round, which took away a little of his prospect allure. People fell more in love with Fournette-McCaffrey but still have a torch for Mixon. The preseason unfolds…Fournette is a bulldozer, confirming his top spot. Others see McCaffrey as a PPR-god and push him as a top guy. Dalvin Cook picks up steam. Mixon is barely used in the preseason…and always as a backup. He does nothing to draw attention to himself or push his fantasy stock.
Fournette, McCaffrey, Cook are all featured starters right off the bat…and suddenly Kareem Hunt is a starter and blows everyone away in his 2017 debut vs. New England. While Mixon runs as a backup and carries the ball 8 times for 9 yards in his debut. His ‘excitement-meter’ wanes in the wake of the other top RB prospects.
The Bengals continue to run Mixon as a backup the first-half of the season. Alvin Kamara begins to emerge from the class and is suddenly beloved ahead of Mixon along with all the other rookie RBs mentioned. It feels like Mixon is stuck in a bad spot or was just never that good to begin with and his value declined further from it’s somewhat lofty perch months prior.
In the 2nd of half of the 2017 season, Mixon becomes a starter, finally, but still puts up embarrassingly low yards per carry in games and isn’t used all that much in the passing game. Again, his value continues to sag…I start seeing cheap deals for him Weeks 8-10 of the season that are shocking in dynasty.
Then comes Week 12…
Before I discuss Week 12 – where were we (FFM) on Mixon through all this? I went from ‘he’s good but he scares me with maturity’ to all-in in love when I saw him work in the NFL preseason – I’ve rarely seen a running back his size who could move/shift like he does…he’s like another Le’Veon Bell. I lose my mind in love Mixon suddenly in August 2017. I’m trying to acquire him all over and buying in all season and telling everyone ‘the day is coming’ on him.
‘A day’ that really never happens, per se.
However, Week 12 -- Mixon as the full starter runs for 114 yards in a game vs. Cleveland. I could see the improvements for weeks and then we finally got a game you’d expect from a stud, starting RB. He also added three catches for 51 yards and scored a rushing TD. People took notice. His valuation bleeding halted. Anticipation built for his big game with the Steelers in Week 13.
Mixon starts the game strong versus Pittsburgh, but takes a hit and leaves the game – concussion, gone from the game. What looked like a burgeoning war between Le’Veon and Le’Veon 2.0…fizzled out before it could start. Mixon fantasy momentum lost. He misses a couple games. Returns Week 16 and gets hurt again. Wasn’t sure he’d even play in Week 17, but he does and has a nice 96-yard day to cap off the season…but much of the Mixon excitement had been drained by his slow start, low ypc, lack of use in the passing game, and then the late season injuries just as things looked up.
Fantasy GMs still like Mixon, and current owners fear if they trade him he’ll become that star…but they’re also not clutching Mixon tightly because he really hurt them this season. He never lived up to the hype they were sold. If you have something that excites Mixon’s current dynasty owner, gives them that ‘hope’ and/or surety in replacement for Mixon…you can acquire him reasonably – he’s not ‘untouchable’.
Everyone is going to want to have a high dynasty rookie draft pick to get Saquon Barkley…but I could argue that Joe Mixon is better than Saquon Barkley, or let’s say they’re both very talented. Because people are deranged about rookies and the shine fades quickly when rookies are not longer rookies…Fantasy GMs will want to sell their soul for Barkley in 2018 preseason, and they look at Mixon as a ‘good’, ‘hopeful’…but Barkley is a sure thing to them. Perspectives.
Mixon has lost a lot of the ‘it’ with people. I think that’s a huge opportunity to go after this offseason in dynasty and prepping for 2018 fantast keeper and redraft.
-- The Ravens think they’ve answered their RB needs with Seattle cast-off Alex Collins (20-78-1, 2-18-0/6) but I’m not sure they have.
How strange is it the Seahawks went through like seven RBs this season…and they cut Alex Collins before the season, and he may have been their answer all along?
Collins is OK, not great. As Collins became a workhorse later in the season, his numbers and efficiency dwindled. He started out on fire with eyepopping yards per carry totals and then fell off with more work/exposure. He’s not bad, he’s just not great…and he has bad hands in the passing game – and has an issue with fumbles in general.
I suspect the Ravens will retain the other RBs (Allen, Woodhead, Dixon, maybe West) and if they ditch 2-3 of them then they’ll draft an RB later in the 2018 NFL Draft. One way or the other – I think Collins’ hold on the #1 RB job in Baltimore is very tentative, subject to change.
-- Don’t ask me about Tyler Kroft (6-52-2/8) because…I don’t know. I know Tyler Kroft is in the forefront of your mind at all times…
Kroft started the season just like this game…nice catch totals, yards, TDs…seemed like he just ‘became’ Tyler Eifert. Three TDs in 3 games/starts early on. All seemed well Weeks 4-6. Then a big pile of nothing but 1-2 catch games midseason kicked him off the radar. In his three games before this – Kroft had 0-1-3 yards in the three games. He finished with a bang/2 TDs.
Bengals TD leaders in 2017…
8 = A.J. Green
7 = Tyler Kroft
I expected more from Kroft, but his output was erratic all year. I want to say ‘sleeper, low-end TE1 for 2018’, but this season’s pattern was weird. New O-C coming…so, it’s likely another guessing game. The potential is there for an Eifert-lite (if Eifert is not back).
-- I’m not ready to leap to major conclusions but A.J. Green (2-17-0/10) didn’t have a great season at age 29…going to be 30 this summer.
A career low 67.4 yards per game.
A career low 52.4% catch rate on his targets.
2nd-lowest catch per game season since his rookie year (4.7 catches per game).
Was #11 in PPR PPG among WRs for fantasy this season.
-- After Cincy fired O-C Ken Zampese after two games, Andy Dalton dropped 25 TDs/8 INTs and a 90.0+ passer rating in 14 games with the new O-C…and a 7-7 record. He’s not awful…not like he’s portrayed…still.
-- If you looked at the top fantasy scoring DLs for 2017 it would read like a ‘who’s who’ list of recognizable and worthy DEs and DT Aaron Donald…but there’s one name that would make you go, “Huh?” Ravens 2nd-year, 5 th-round pick out of Grand Valley State -- DE Matt Judon (3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 PD) the #9 DL in IDP for 2017. 50 tackles, 8.0 sacks, 2 FFs, 3 PDs on the season.
We’ve been fans of his since studying him for the 2016 NFL Draft, but I didn’t see this coming…or this fast for sure.
-- A pair of rookie UDFA linebackers for Cincinnati got extended playing time here Hardy Nickerson (7 tackles, 1 PD) and Brandon Bell (7 tackles). Nice tackle counts here and they played OK, but not likely IDP breakouts for the near future.
Nickerson has the name and is an aggressive tackler but lacking athletically…a 4.78 runner, a 7.30 three-cone at 230+ pounds.
Bell is a so-so athlete and player – 4.70 40-time, 15 bench reps, 7.05 three-cone at 230+ pounds. Nothing special out of Penn State.
Looking ahead at the 2018 schedule…
It looks like Ravens are headed to a 6-7 win season, possibly 8 wins. It’s a more favorable schedule than not.
The Bengals have some pieces to grow with in Mixon and CB Will Jackson among others. Andy Dalton is good, capable. With a few tweaks, the Bengals could be in that 8-9 win range…9-10 if Big Ben retires.
Where I was right/wrong on these teams in 2018…
Right: My #2 ranked over/under bet in May 2017…Cincy and under 8.5 wins. I didn’t like this schedule or the decline in the O-Line. I think the Bengals will be better in 2018.
Wrong: I thought Joe Mixon was good, but overrated going into the 2017 NFL Draft…I was the fool. He is more elite of a prospect than not. We’ll see if he keeps his head on straight, but he isn’t just good…he’s possibly great.
Right: I didn’t think this was a playoff team all year, nor a great defense…just a team hiding behind an easy schedule. They were eventually exposed in the end/when they played winning/playoff teams.
Wrong: I thought Michael Campanaro might get a run as a Julian Edelman type option for the Ravens this season. ‘Nope’, once again. He had his best season in his four-year career but really never mattered to the Ravens offense. He made a few plays, he deserved better…